A visual and scientific history of water from


image: Water cover
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Water is so pervasive in our lives that it’s easy to take it for granted. The average American uses ninety gallons of water a day; almost all the liquids we come across are primarily water – milk, for example, contains 87 percent water. Clouds and ice – water in other forms – affect our climate. Water is the most abundant substance on Earth and the third most abundant molecule in the universe. In this richly illustrated volume, science writer Jack Challoner tells the story of water, from its origins in the birth of stars to its importance in the living world.

Water: a visual and scientific history goes on sale September 28 and is the latest from acclaimed science writer Jack Challoner. He is the author of over forty books on science and technology, including The Cell: A Visual Tour of the Building Block of Life, which was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Biology Book Prize 2016, and The Atom: A Visual Tour (MIT Presse).

Water is perhaps the most studied compound in the universe – although mysteries remain about it – and Challoner describes how thinkers of ancient times approached the subject. It offers a detailed and fascinating look at the structure and behavior of water molecules, explores the physics of water – explaining, among other things, why ice is slippery – and examines the chemistry of water. He studies photosynthesis and the role of water in the history of evolution, and discusses water and time, reviewing topics ranging from snowflake science to climate change. Finally, he considers the possibility of water beyond our own hydrosphere, on other planets, on the Moon, in interstellar space.

Additional praise includes:

“In his gem-like book, Water, Jack Challoner explores this humble, essential and amazing liquid through multiple facets – from history to physics to space exploration – and allows everyone to between them to shine with real fascination. ” –Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Poison Squad and The Poisoner’s Handbook

“Jack Challoner’s Water Story is beautiful, scientific, up-to-date and easily readable, and it is based on Philip Ball’s Water Biography.” –Anders Nilsson, Professor of Chemical Physics, Stockholm University and Professor of Photon Science, Stanford University

Facts you may not know about WATER:

  • Water does not adhere to all materials as well as to glass and sand.
  • Nonpolar molecules, which do not have areas of positive and negative partial charge, do not mix well with water.
  • The ability of water to hold so many substances in solution or in suspension, so that they can react together, is vital in the reactions that make life possible.
  • The average American uses 90 gallons of water each day, mainly for washing and cooking, and for removing waste.
  • Milk, for example, is 87 percent water, the rest is fat, protein, and sugars. Water is “incorporated” into every product we buy: almost 2,000 gallons are used to produce each pound of beef and between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons to make a car. Water plays a central role in our climate: clouds distribute heat around the world, the oceans are a major sink for carbon dioxide, and huge volumes of ice at the poles dampen temperature fluctuations.
  • In 2011, two teams of astronomers discovered a water-rich region around a black hole in the center of a distant galaxy, called APM 08279 + 5255, in this case by studying the radiation produced about 1.6 billion d years after the Big Bang. he amount of water vapor there, when condensed, would fill Earth’s oceans more than 100,000 billion times.4 It is the largest reservoir of water detected to date, and one of the older.
  • Water from long-lived comets has the highest D / H ratio of any object in the solar system, up to 500 parts per million.
  • Fresh (unsalted) water makes up only 2.5% of the Earth’s supply, and more than two-thirds of this freshwater is locked in glaciers and ice caps, and most of the rest is underground .
  • Around the world around 300 trillion gallons of water are carried through the air every day, having evaporated from oceans, seas, bays, rivers, streams, puddles, leaves, of your skin and many other places. And, of course, the same amount of water falls as precipitation. This amount of water would fill 450 million Olympic swimming pools.
  • Oceans cover almost 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, so they are the source of the vast majority of water that evaporates into the air.
  • On average, a water molecule will stay in the ocean for about 3,000 years.
  • During winter in the northern hemisphere, about 15 percent of the world’s ocean area (and therefore more than 10 percent of the Earth’s surface) is covered with sea ice.
  • About 121,000 cubic miles of rain fall each year, mostly on the oceans.
  • The small raindrops (just over 1/16 of an inch) are spherical in free flight, and not teardrop-shaped as they are often depicted in cartoons or illustrations.
  • Evidence of the first purpose-built water wells dates back to around 10,000 years before the present.
  • The World Health Organization and UNICEF have jointly released national, regional and global estimates of progress in drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) since 1990. Based on their 2019 figures.
    • 1 in 3 people, or 2.2 billion people, in the world lack drinking water.
    • More than half of the world’s population, or 4.2 billion people, do not have safe sanitation facilities.
    • Almost half of the world’s schools do not have facilities for washing hands with soap and water available to students.
    • 2 in 5 people, or 3 billion people, in the world lack basic hand washing facilities at home.
    • 207 million people spent more than 30 minutes per round trip fetching water from a spring.
    • Globally, at least 2 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with fecal matter
    • Some 297,000 children under the age of five die each year from diarrheal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene or unsafe drinking water.
  • In its 125th anniversary edition, the magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science included the structure of water among 125 “major questions facing scientific research over the next quarter century.”
  • At 212 ° F, the vapor pressure of water is equal to the standard atmospheric pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch, or 1 atmosphere.

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